Note: This article has been updated with references to Al Nusrah Front’s video of the captured pilot and other information.
A Syrian fighter jet was downed in the Aleppo province earlier today. “A warplane was exposed to [a] surface-to-air missile during its reconnaissance mission over the countryside of Aleppo which led to its downfall,” the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported. SANA, which is the Syrian government’s propaganda arm, blamed “terrorist organizations” and said “work is underway to rescue” the pilot, who parachuted from the plane before it crashed.
Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has released a video of the plane’s wreckage. The video also shows the pilot being questioned about his mission. A screen shot of the pilot can be seen above.
Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-linked group, has claimed responsibility on its official Twitter feed for bringing down the warplane. There are conflicting reports concerning how the plane was hit.
A self-declared al Qaeda operative known as Abu Saeed al Hollandi tweeted earlier today that Ahrar al Sham had claimed credit even before the group released any official statements. According to al Hollandi, Al Nusrah Front took custody of the jet’s pilot shortly after he parachuted from the burning plane.
Al Hollandi said that Al Nusrah was investigating which party was responsible for downing the SU-22, but this may not in fact be true. Al Nusrah works closely with Ahrar al Sham, which is itself linked to al Qaeda, on the battlefield. It is likely that Al Nusrah already knew that Ahrar was responsible. In fact, it is possible that the organizations worked together on the attack.
Screen shots of Abu Saeed al Hollandi’s tweets, including a photo of the pilot, can be seen below.
Ahrar al Sham has also posted photos of the plane’s wreckage and a video that appears to show the jet moments after being hit. Ahrar’s tweets and photos can also be seen below.
Some jihadist Twitter feeds have even posted photos of people taking selfies with the “hero” who allegedly fired the missile.
The plane crashed near Talat al-‘Iss in southern Aleppo. Al Nusrah and its allies overran the hill and a nearby village just days ago in a newly-launched offensive. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front, allies launch offensive south of Aleppo.]
Al Nusrah and other rebels are attempting to regain the initiative from the Assad regime and its battlefield partners, who have advanced under the cover of Russian air power since last fall.
Abu Saeed al Hollandi’s tweets:
Ahrar al Sham’s photos and tweets:
A selfie with the jihadist who allegedly brought down the SU-22:
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.